Putting out the Unwelcome Mat

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One of my favorite summer activities is a trip to a nearby farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. I love picking up fresh produce, listening to live music, running into old friends and grabbing a great cup of coffee. Plus, the market experience seems to make everyone happy.

Well, almost everyone.

The owners of the adjacent strip mall don’t like market patrons using their parking lot, so they put up signs every Saturday specifying that their lot is only for the use of their own customers. Now, I totally understand their need to save room for their customers to park, but I also have to think they’re turning away potential new customers with their signs. And market patrons tend to be upper-middle-income folks with money to spend; otherwise, why would they pay a premium for fresh local produce, meat, and eggs?

I’ve often wondered what would happen if the folks who run the strip mall decided to designate their lightly used side parking lot for market customers. Or if they signed on as sponsors of the market. Or if they set up fresh water stations on hot August Saturdays. Perhaps their stores would get to be as crowded as the market stalls.

It occurs to me that a lot of Scout troops think like those mall owners, intentionally or inadvertently turning away families with their inflexibility. This might happen when a Scout needs to leave a campout early to perform in a concert or when a Scout shows up to a meeting out of uniform because he just came from football practice.

When we put out unwelcome mats, we’re betting that our product is more appealing than the one down the street. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I would want to stake my troop’s future on that bet.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

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One thought on “Putting out the Unwelcome Mat

  1. Dean Whinery

    I’ve never understood Scouting units, Boy or Girl, being “closed”, especially those with but 5 or 10 members…those a Patrols! When SM in Munich, Transatlantic Council, we had to temporarilyl stop accepting new member, but only until our sponsor found us a lerger meeting place, the we grew from about 30 member to around 40–4 Patrols and a SPL aided by a small team of older boys who joined us because there was no Explorer post in our area. My long-ago Cadette GS troop generally ran to about 60 members, most of whom had been shunned by “closed” troops of no more than 12…These Scouts looked on the closed units as “cliques”.

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